04 August 2008

dry river -- wet sky


The Family heads out for the annual Blanco River tubing and swimming vacation in just a few hours. It's always a fun trip, as we drive 3 hours west to the Texas Hill Country and stay for a week or so in a small but comfortable cabin fronting the small but comfortable Blanco River which flows through the small but comfortable village of Wimberley, Texas. We'll have a half dozen innertubes, some air mattresses, some fishing poles, some camp chairs, a clothesline to air dry the swimming gear, and for a few days we'll do pretty much nothing but find cool swimming holes in which to hide from the Texas heat.

But there are complications.

One, there's almost no water in the river this year.

Two, a Tropical Storm Edouard is bearing down on us and going to run right over us in 48 hours or so.

The first problem is due to drought. While the spring fed Comal and reservoir controlled Guadalupe still have plenty of water (and might yet get a visit from us this week...), the Blanco is fed almost entirely by runoff. And locals report their rainguages in the Wimberley area have shown a total of approximately one half inch of rain since January.

One half inch.

Which means the river, which usually flows at a rate of around 200-400 cubic feet per second (CFS) is right now "flowing" at 14 cfs.

My toilet sees more water pass through.

So that means when we arrive this afternoon, the Blanco ("White" in Spanish) will again reveal the source of her name, as her bare rock course will shine bone white in the Texas heat.

"Well, here we are kids! Try not to trip and fall down!"


That second issue the storm. Now, I've been through tropical storms while in the Hill Country before. So long as you're not dumb enough to be in a tent along the banks of a river, you should be perfectly safe -- the water comes up, flows like crazy for a half day or so, and then starts to recede. In fact, this kind of storm is exactly what the doctor ordered to help break the awful drought conditions in that part of the state. Edouard will rumble onto land, dragging a few million metric tons of nice clean Gulf water in his wake, and leave the parched heart of Texas a little less hellish.

Except... the ETA for this storm in the area where we will be is Wednesday, and we eave Friday morning. Meaning that we'll arrive today, find no water, have all day Tuesday to enjoy the hot blazing bare empty river, wake Wednesday to hear thunder, and then have light torrential rain soaking us for the day. Thursday -- maybe -- could turn into something fun, as the rain will flush the dust and gunk from the river and hopefully put enough wetness back into her that we can actually ride our tubes rather than just carry them around like luggage.

Of course, there's always the chance that Edouard will dump a true flood, in which case the rocky canyon walls will divert all his wetness down the narrow Blanco, and that 13 cfs flood rate will balloon to... 1500 cfs? 2500? Or maybe the 3900 we saw one year when we arrived two days after small hurricane had parked over the area and soaked it but good.

At any rate, it should be an interesting flat trip, and hell yes I meant to put air-quotes around "interesting."


See ya in a week. I hope.
soon to be seared then soaked B

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